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Is DWI Worse than DUI in Minnesota?

Acronyms are common when it comes to criminally prosecute drunk driving offenses. Some states refer to this offense as driving while intoxicated while others call it driving under the influence. Some states even use the acronyms DWI and DUI to differentiate between two very different offenses. That is not the case in Minnesota.

Is It DUI or DWI in Minnesota?

Officially, Minnesota law refers to a drunken driving offense as driving while impaired (DWI). Some people use this name and DUI interchangeably, but DUI is technically not mentioned under state law. This differs from other states to treat DUI as a form of lesser offense for drivers under the age of 21.

If you are facing a DWI charge, the potential consequences of a conviction are steep no matter which acronym you use. The good news is that you can potentially avoid a conviction entirely by fighting back against these charges. Contact the Minnesota DWI Defense attorneys at Gerald Miller right away to learn more.

Other DWI-Related Terminology

The use of the terms DWI and DUI are only some of the commonly-used terminology in these cases. In many situations, the police will use abbreviations like DWI to simplify the discussion of these cases. The following are some of the commonly used terms and abbreviations in DWI cases.

  • Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). Also known as blood alcohol content, your BAC is a measure of the amount of alcohol in your system at the time you were driving. A BAC of .08 or above is considered intoxicated.
  • Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). A DRE is an officer that has specialized training in identifying intoxication from substances other than alcohol. Unfortunately, much of the work of a DRE is subjective at best or pseudoscience at worst.
  • A portable device used by police to measure your BAC.
  • Field Sobriety Tests. Field sobriety tests are a series of exercises designed to prove an individual is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These tests including things like standing on one leg or walking a straight line.
  • One of the standardized field sobriety tests is known as the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. Nystagmus is an involuntary movement in the eye that can be caused by alcohol consumption.

These are only a few of the terms that are commonly used in DWI cases in Minnesota. For a better understanding of this terminology, discuss your case with the attorneys of Gerald Miller during an initial consultation.

Consequences of a DWI Conviction in Minneapolis

The consequences that come with a conviction for DWI vary. In Minnesota, the number of prior DWI convictions at the time of your arrest will play a major role in determining the penalty. Keep in mind that the state will only consider prior misdemeanor convictions that occurred within the previous ten years.

Jail Time and Fines in MN

Experienced DWI lawyers in Minnesota know that most first-time offenders face a maximum jail term of 90 days as well as a fine of no more than $1,000. This offense is a standard misdemeanor under the state law. However, a first offense is elevated to a gross misdemeanor depending on the circumstances. For example, a first DWI offense will be treated as a gross misdemeanor if the driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .16 or more, or if they had a minor under the age of 16 in the vehicle. The penalty for a gross misdemeanor is a maximum of one year in jail and a fine of no more than $3,000.

Second and third DWI arrests are also treated as gross misdemeanors. However, these offenses carry the potential for minimum sentences and much tougher driver’s license suspensions.

Fourth and subsequent DWI convictions are always treated as a felony in Minnesota. Upon conviction, you could face as much as seven years in state prison. Additionally, felony DWI carries a maximum fine of no more than $14,000.

License Suspension in Minnesota

One of the consequences that can come with a DWI is the suspension of your driving privileges. With each subsequent DWI conviction, the length of these suspensions will only grow.

DWI First Offense in MN

First-time offenders generally face a 90-day suspension of their driving privileges upon conviction. However, this suspension could be reduced to 30 days with a guilty plea. The court also retains the right to allow the defendant to drive during this period with an interlock device. This suspension period is extended to one year if you refuse a breath test or have a BAC of .16 or more.

DWI Second Offense in MN

For second offenses, you will face year-long license suspension. Again, you could be able to obtain limited driving privileges during this period with an ignition interlock device. The suspension stretches to two years if your BAC is .16 or more at the time of your arrest.

DWI Third Offense in MN

For third offenses, the state will cancel your license as a “inimical to public safety.” In some cases, the state could even impound your plates and seize your vehicle. If you get your license back, you must have an interlock ignition device installed. It cannot be removed without three consecutive years without a positive alcohol or drug test.

For fourth or subsequent offenses, your license will also be cancelled. This time, you must go between four and six years without a positive alcohol or drug test in order to have the interlock device removed.

DWI Restitution in Minneapolis

Restitution is a form of monetary compensation ordered by a judge following a DWI conviction. These penalties are different than criminal fines, which ultimately go to the court. Instead, restitution involves a direct payment made to individual injured by the defendant in a DWI case. Restitution is commonly used in DWI cases that involve motor vehicle accidents. It could cover a person’s medical bills, vehicle repair costs, or other expenses.

Collateral Consequences in Minneapolis

Not every consequence of a DWI conviction is written into the criminal code. Often, a conviction for DWI could bring about unexpected consequences that are not mandated by law. These are commonly known as collateral consequences.

The severity of collateral consequences depending on the type of criminal offense that is involved. While all convictions for DWI can carry these consequences, they are far steeper in felony cases. This is because a felony conviction will result in the loss of your right to vote or own firearms.

With any DWI conviction, you could also experience challenges in your professional life. Employers have the right to fire you or reject your application based on nothing more than your criminal record. A DWI could also cost you a professional license or cause problems during child custody disputes.

How a Minneapolis DWI Defense Lawyer Can Build a Defense

While there are a number of potential defenses to a DWI charge, most of them fall into two broad categories. These include challenges to the traffic stop and challenges to the chemical test.

Challenging the DWI Stop

Challenges to the traffic stop make for a powerful defense thanks to a legal theory known as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” If the police illegally pull over a driver, any evidence from that stop cannot be used at trial.

The police do not have free reign to stop any vehicle they choose. To pull over a driver, they must have a reasonable suspicion that the motorist has violated a traffic law or committed some other crime. Without reasonable suspicion, a traffic stop is unlawful. When it comes to evidence, reasonable suspicion is a fairly low standard. Despite that fact, many officers abuse their power by pulling over drivers without legal grounds to do so.

An attorney can file a motion to exclude any evidence the police recover from an illegal stop. In the case of a DWI arrest, this could include alcohol found in the vehicle, an admission by the driver that they had been drinking, or even the results of a breath test.

Challenging the DWI Test in Minneapolis

Another common approach that DWI attorneys in Minnesota take is to attack the results of the chemical test. For most prosecutors, a blood or breath test that reflects a BAC of .08 or greater is the primary evidence they rely on at trial. By establishing that the result of the test is unreliable, a lawyer can have the test result excluded from trial.

There are a number of ways to challenge the test. These include failure by the lab to follow protocols, contamination of a sample, or a broken chain of evidence. Any of these issues could result in a successful challenge to the test.

Let a Minnesota DWI Defense Lawyer Guide You

Your DWI attorney in Minnesota can help you understand the charges against you and advise you of the best defense options for your situation. To get started, contact the attorneys of Gerald Miller at (612) 440-4610 as soon as possible.


About the author

Kyle Dreger

Kyle Dreger is a skilled DUI/DWI and Criminal Defense lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. Kyle has received his law degree from the University of St. Thomas School of Law. He is also a professionally trained basketball player.

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